A former Knicks castoff has reemerged as a valuable role player in Brooklyn.
Iman Shumpert has become a regular member of the Nets’ rotation over the past nine games, serving largely as a perimeter stopper on the second unit in Brooklyn’s 6-3 run without injured guard Kyrie Irving.
Shumpert, who won a championship alongside Irving and LeBron James with Cleveland in 2016, is averaging 4.7 points and one steal over 18 minutes per game since the Nets signed him Nov. 13.
“I definitely always felt it’s not just a young [league] — you can develop an older player,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, an assistant with the Knicks during Shumpert’s rookie year in 2011-12. “If they’re in the right system, right fit, I think that’s kind of what happened with Shump and with Melo [ex-Knick Carmelo Anthony in Portland]. They landed in the right spot at the right time.
“But I’ll just talk about Shump. He’s been — I’ve said it from the beginning — he gives us something we didn’t have: a perimeter stopper. He’s leading our team in forced turnovers. [He’s] everything we kind of expected. He plays super hard, great spirit, great guy in the locker room. … From the moment he stepped here in Brooklyn, it’s been seamless. Our rapport, our chemistry, I’m really pleased.”
Atkinson’s goal against the Hawks must be to contain second-year point guard Trae Young, who is emerging into a star with 28.2 points and 8.3 assists per game and shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range.
“It’s the ultimate green light, which is smart by Lloyd and the Hawks,” Atkinson said, referring to Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce. “[Young] is super-talented. The problem is that he’s not just a pass quarterback. He’s run-pass — run, pass, scramble. Like you want to blitz him and he’s an elite passer.
“Obviously the distance, with Steph [Curry] out, we haven’t really faced something like that. It just turns your scout, the poor assistant that has the scout [report], it makes a big headache for us, because you have to change your principles a little. I don’t think you can stick with your basic defense all the time with him.”
Forward Taurean Prince will play his first game in Atlanta after spending the previous three seasons with the Hawks. He’s started all 20 games and is averaging 13.0 points and a career-high six rebounds per appearance.